TODAY'S TELEVISION

Gerard Gilbert recommends Match of the Day Sat 10.50pm BBC1
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The Independent Culture
Don't get me wrong; I'm looking forward to the new football season as much as the next person. It's just that you would think that they'd let the athletics and cricket finish first. It's hard enough in this country to differentiate between winter and summer as it is.

Match of the Day (Sat BBC1) is a resilient survivor - a veritable phoenix, in fact. You might have forgotten, but there was many a dark, Jimmy Hill'less Saturday evening between 1988 and 1992, before the BBC came to an agreement with Sky to show Premiership highlights. It really did look as if Match of the Day had gone the way of Dixon of Dock Green and Dicky Davies - and I well remember the slight sense of nostalgia-tinged embarrassment when that famous theme tune was cranked out again. Now, however, Match of the Day is entrenched back in the nation's viewing habits, their post- match analysis refreshingly free of Andy Gray's mad, Peter Snow-like cavorting with computer technology. Tonight, they're showing newly-promoted Barnsley's home match against West Ham United, and Wimbledon at home to Liverpool. Sky's Live Football (Sun Sky Sports 1) has Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Teddy Sheringham getting a faster return to White Hart lane than he must have anticipated.

I do hope that Planet Islam (Sun BBC2) is not going out unwatched and unloved. It is a truly excellent series - enlightening and with impressive access to its subject. Foreign affairs journalism at its best, in fact. Last week, they showed the chasm between French Muslims and the host culture. In tomorrow night's film, William Shawcross's admirably terse commentary takes us to the further reaches of the former Soviet empire; to Tatarstan, where historic enmities between Russian Christians and Tartar Muslims are again evident. And the barely reported war in the nominally independent Tajikstan, where Russian troops attempt to stem the tide of Islam pouring over the frontier with Afghanistan. There are 30 million Muslims in the former Sovier republics - and 12 million in Mother Russia herself. Scores of wars in the making, each with the potential to dwarf Bosnia and Chechnya.

After the punchiness of Planet Islam, this week's Omnibus (Sun BBC1) is annoyingly diffuse. It's a film about Rudyard Kipling - a search for the secret Kipling - as possibly revealed by his lost manuscript Mother Maturin. Did the poet of Empire have a secret love - maybe a native Indian girl. But before we get involved in all this, we have to get to know our narrator, an out-of-work actor called Mace Richards, and interest ourselves in the reasons for his interest in Kipling, if you see what I mean. The enduring image is of Kipling's son, John, having been encouraged by his father to enlist under-age for WWI, running across the battlefield, his jaw missing and tears streaming down his face. He was 16 and no one saw him again.

Four, after much trumpeting, finally Goes to Glynebourne (Sat C4) for Rossini's Le Comte Ory, and The Dynasty: the Nehru-Gandhi Story (Sat BBC2) gets to Indira. Nehru's daughter was consistently underestimated - she was ugly, people said (yet she charmed foreign aid out of both Lyndon Johnson and Kosygin), she was unintelligent, she would disappear in a military coup. In the end the coup was all hers. Breeding would out, however, and after 18 months of "emergency", Indira called for an election. Her son, Sanjay, was appalled. India's tradition of democracy, it seems, was what was salvaged when Sanjay's light aircraft crashed, taking its pilot with it.

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